7 Best Workout Shoes in 2023

Nicholas Rizzo
Nicholas Rizzo on
7 Best Workout Shoes in 2023
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Workout shoes, also called cross-training shoes or cross-trainers, are engineered to accommodate a wide range of training activities. This guide will present the best workout shoes we have tried and tested and what to look for when buying a pair of workout shoes.

Some shoes come with a wider, more stable platform to accommodate weightlifting. Others are much lighter and help you feel more nimble for agility training. Depending on your priorities, we have selected the number one in different categories through meticulous testing of 100+ workout shoes, so you can successfully bag your perfect gym shoe.

Best workout shoes overall

What makes it the best?

Calling the Free Metcon 5 the best workout shoe is still not praising it well enough! After working out in it many times and testing it in the lab, we can say that the Free Metcon 5 has versatility at its core. It is exceptionally flexible, so exercises like box jumps and planks are a piece of cake. It provided us with immense stability, so we were never at a loss when we did squats and overhead snatches. And it was able to compress quite well, especially under the heel, so we never felt any pain even if we prolonged our workouts. 

The digital force gauge in our lab showed that the Nike Free Metcon 5 only needed 8.8N to do a 90-degree bend. This is not even half of the 22.5N that a typical trainer would need. Given these numbers, saying that this shoe is insanely flexible still sounds like an understatement.

The base of this shoe was fairly wide, especially in the heel area. Compared to the 87.0 mm average, the heel area of the Free Metcon 5 is much wider at 95.1 mm. Even if we were fidgety, there was just no way that our feet would ever slip off the footbed.

Impact protection was also an aspect that this shoe aced. Using an HA durometer, we learned that the midsole is much softer than average, 17.4 against 27.0. No wonder our landings were never painful, no matter how harsh or aggressive our vertical movements had been.

It’s just too regretful that the upper did not make such a good impression on us when we performed the standard Dremel test on it. Twelve seconds of drilling, unfortunately, left considerable damage.


  • Impressively stable
  • Noteworthy ankle support
  • Awesomely close-fitting
  • Roomy toebox
  • Nice and airy upper
  • Comfortable for all-day wear
  • Quite cushiony
  • Notably lightweight
  • Exceptionally flexible
  • Stylish design and overall look


  • Not for long runs (2-3 miles max)
  • Upper lacks durability
Full review of Nike Free Metcon 5

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Any color
Volt/Grey (DV3949700)
Gray (DV3949002)
Green / Orange (DV3949301)
Green (DV3949300)
White (DV3949101)
Black White Anthracite (DV3949001)

Best workout shoes for weightlifting

Nike Metcon 9

What makes it the best?

The Metcon series is once again making waves with the Nike Metcon 9. This workout shoe is loved by many gym rats, especially CrossFitters and others who love to incorporate a lot of lifting in their programs. This shoe is also functionally and aesthetically versatile enough to be worn in non-workout settings.


  • Largely suitable for lifting
  • Great stability
  • Reliable foot containment
  • High levels of comfort
  • Nice grip on gym floors
  • Accommodates wide feet
  • Fairly durable structure
  • Easy on-off
  • Stylish modern appearance


  • Is NOT the best for cardio workouts
  • Still has to be broken in
Full review of Nike Metcon 9

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Any color
Black (DZ2617001)
White (DZ2617100)
Orange (DZ2617800)
Green (DZ2617300)
White (DZ2539001)

Workout shoes with the best comfort

Reebok Nano X3

What makes it the best?

The Reebok Nano X3 is our best pick for comfort because it delivered a good deal of breathability and a soft feeling underfoot during our test workouts. What makes this shoe even more amazing is that it is effectively resistant to abrasion!

Smoke that was pumped into the shoe escaped through the upper material easily and quickly when we did our breathability test in the lab. In the gym, this shoe’s airiness kept our feet dry and comfortable. We scored this shoe a 4 out of 5 for ventilation.

The midsole tooling right under the heel felt really soft. When we assessed it using an HA durometer, we learned that the heel cushion is actually 24% softer than the average. No wonder we felt like walking on clouds when we wore the Nano X3 in the gym.

Aside from going through a breathability assessment, the upper was also subjected to a Dremel test for durability. After 12 seconds of high-pressure drilling, our tool did not even make a significant mark on the upper. Clearly, the upper’s breathability did not in any way compromise its sturdiness.

A downside of the Reebok Nano X3 is its weight. At 12.4 oz or 352g, this workout shoe is heavier than the 11.2 oz or 317g average. Gym rats who want shoes with a ‘barely there’ feel won’t be too excited about this one.


  • Awesome fit
  • Extremely comfortable upper
  • Cloud-like cushioning
  • Good stability for moderate lifting
  • Nice bounce for jumps
  • Great for rope climbing
  • Scene-stealing appearance


  • Break-in needed
  • Heavier than average
  • Not for heavier weightlifting
Full review of Reebok Nano X3

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Any color
Cherry Cherry Neon Cherry (LTE31)
Ftwbla Sofecr Aurorg (LRH15)
Core Black/Energy Glow/Smash Orange (HP6046)
Black/Pewter (HP6045)
Cdgry2 Cdgry4 Vecblu (HP6044)
Vector Red/Black (HP6043)
White/Semi Classic Teal/Lilac Glow (ID9429)
Purple Oasis/Cold Grey/Vector Blue (HP6051)
More colors

Best workout shoes for speed

What makes it the best?

The Nike Zoom Metcon Turbo 2 is our pick for the best workout shoe for speed, with its responsive and bouncy midsole adding some much-needed pop. And upon testing the shoe in the gym and the lab, we still found the shoe to be plenty stable and durable enough to withstand speed workouts with ease.

The Metcon Turbo 2 has the enjoyable springiness that is notably absent in workout shoes. The Zoom Air unit in the forefoot is responsible for bringing that bounce to our step, which sure comes in handy when we want to go for all-out speed.

This shoe doesn't sacrifice speed for stability, either. It is 2.2 mm and 2.6 mm wider than average in the forefoot and heel, respectively, which provides a wide and secure landing platform for sprints and other fast runs.

And the outsole is more than capable of withstanding a heavy pounding during our speed-oriented workouts, whether it’s in the gym or even outdoors. Our durometer measured it as being 2.5% harder than the average training shoe, and it is also 17.5% thicker.

Unfortunately, the shoe's upper is not quite as tough. We found its toebox durability, in particular, to be wanting as the Dremel did enough destruction to warrant the lowest score of 1 out of 5 in our durability test.


  • Bouncy Zoom Air in the forefoot
  • Good for short runs
  • Perfect for jumps and aerobics
  • Stable for moderate lifting
  • Excellent flexibility
  • Amazingly breathable
  • Durable outsole


  • Upper is not durable rope climbing
  • Heavy for a "speed-oriented" trainer
Full review of Nike Zoom Metcon Turbo 2

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Any color
Pro Green Multi Colour 393 (DH3392393)
Multicolor (DH3392100)
Grau (DH3392001)
Grey (DH3392003)
Yellow (DH3392700)
Iron Grey/Black/Phantom/Black (DH3392004)
Black (DH3392010)
White/Photo Blue/Pink Prime (DH3392109)

Best minimalist workout shoes

What makes it the best?

The Nike Flex Control 4 is “less is more” in every respect. That’s why it truly deserves to be hailed as the best minimalist among all workout shoes. Of particular note are: its pretty light structure, minimal tongue, and low-profile midsole that offers just the right amount of the important stuff.

Weighing only 9.8 oz or 277g, this shoe is considerably lighter than the typical workout shoe that weighs 11.2 oz or 317g based on our data. Because it doesn’t feel like a brick on our feet, we were able to run faster and jump higher while wearing the Flex Control 4.

The insides of the shoe are padded just enough to ensure a comfortable fit. We particularly mention the tongue, which our lab caliper measured to be only 4.3 mm thick when the average is 5.8 mm. It was just enough to get rid of pressure and chafing, and it never felt too much on top of the foot.

The Flex Control 4 had one of the most low-to-the-ground midsoles we’ve ever tried. With stack heights of 19.0 mm at the heel and 15.6 at the forefoot, this whole structure is thinner by a whooping 5.6 mm and 2.7 mm than the average. Mind you, this cushion delivered so much quick-footedness and was still enough to provide impact protection whenever needed.

We noticed, however, that this shoe isn’t for heavier weightlifting. We observed that our toes got pushed forward during heavy lifts, and it was to the point that the friction with the forefoot became too uncomfortable and distracting.


  • Comfortable in-shoe feel
  • Lighter than average
  • Very flexible
  • Foot feels planted
  • Budget-friendly
  • Good grip
  • Simple aesthetics
  • True to size


  • Durability issues
  • Not for serious workouts
Full review of Nike Flex Control 4

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Any color
Midnight navy/metallic silver (CD0197400)
White (CD0197100)
Gray (CD0199001)

Best outdoor workout shoes

What makes it the best?

We consider the Reebok Nano X2 TR Adventure as the best for outdoor workouts simply because outdoor use is in its DNA. Besides having an impressively durable upper, its outsole sports a lugged design that made it suitable for uneven outdoor surfaces. Both the outsole and midsole are firmer than average, giving the shoe a bit of advantage when it comes to not letting us feel the tiny abrasiveness of the debris that we stepped on.

We liked it so much that our Dremel test ended up just like a joke for the Nano X2 TR Adventure. Twelve seconds of abrasive drilling only left a scratch where other shoes would already suffer a serious hole. 

The lugged design of the outsole surely helped us maintain balance and grip when there were pebbles and other debris on the surface that we were working out on. Not only were we able to focus more on our exercises, but we also felt safe wearing this shoe because of how the outsole is configured.

Our lab assessments confirmed the firmness that we felt when touching the outsole. Our HC durometer revealed an 85.5 when the average is only 84.4. We couldn’t feel the roughness of some outdoor surfaces because of the firmness of the outsole and that of the midsole. The lab’s HA durometer scored the midsole a solid 32.0 when the average is only 27.0.

The shoe’s upper, however, only got a score of 2 out 5 for ventilation from us. It didn’t do well in both of our breathability assessments. Both light and smoke couldn’t pass through the upper material.


  • Extremely durable for the outdoors
  • Dependable outdoor traction
  • Comfortable upper
  • Reliably protective
  • Functional versatility
  • Great support
  • True-to-size fit
  • Has reflective components


  • Not for niche exercises
  • Clunky and heavy
Full review of Reebok Nano X2 TR Adventure

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Any color
Black/Bold Purple/Acid Yellow (LRI52)
Grey (LIP79)
Jurassic World/Modern Olive/Wild Khaki (LRL39)
Hargrn Negbás Soacye (HP9227)
Steblu Negbás Smaora (HP9226)
Core Black/Classic Teal/Pure Grey (GY8901)
Army Green/Core Black/Neon Cherry (GY9493)

Best budget workout shoes

What makes it the best?

The Nike Legend Essential 3 is yours for only $65, which is 28.5% lower than the $91 average price of workout shoes in the market today. But price is not the only thing that’s low with this trainer. The Legend Essential 3 from Nike weighs only 8.78 oz or 249g, which is a lot lighter than the 11.18 oz or 317g average. Shedding that much weight is already an amazing feat, but this shoe gained the most value among all workout shoes in our eyes because it delivered a good deal of breathability and a lot of space to accommodate wide feet.

In the lab, we saw that the smoke that we pumped into the shoe escaped quite easily through the upper material. In terms of ventilation, the Legend Essential 3 got a score of 4 out of 5 from us. 

We also loved the fact that the toebox offered a lot of space that the wide-footers among us never had an issue with fit. Using a caliper, we learned that the toebox is 104.1 mm wide, and this is way higher than the 100.5 mm average.

After our test workouts, we also manually squeezed and pulled on the heel counter to test its stiffness. On a five-point scale where 5 means the stiffest, we gave this shoe a 2. Because of the flimsiness of the heel counter, we do not recommend the Legend Essential 3 to gym addicts who lift heavy and are in need of immense support.


  • Very affordable
  • Super lightweight
  • Breathable upper
  • Enough cushioning for jumps
  • Wide platform
  • Flexible
  • Good grip


  • Lacks durability
  • Not for heavy lifting
Full review of Nike Legend Essential 3

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Any color
Black White Iron Grey (DM1120001)
Black (DM1120007)
Grün (DM1120700)
Anthracite Blue Lightning White Black (DM1120004)
Racer Blue White Obsidian Sund (DM1120402)
Sequoia/High Voltage/Light Silver (DM1120300)
Smoke Grey White Dk Smoke Grey (DM1120002)
Light Silver/Summit White/Iron Grey (DM1120008)
More colors

Comparison of the 7 best workout shoes

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# of colorways

What to look for in workout shoes 

Workout shoes are meant to keep the foot supported for multi-directional movements and protected during high-impact activities. Features to look for depend on the type of exercise. 

In general, workout shoes should be: 

  1. Lightweight 
  2. Breathable
  3. Have a firm midsole
  4. Have a grippy outsole 

However, it’s more relevant to show these features in comparison to other shoes that are usually used in the gym. This way, you’ll know what to look for based on the main exercise of your choice.

Short runs
(< 5km)

HIIT & Agility training Weightlifting
moderate heavy

Everyday workout shoes


Best for: moderate gym workouts; can double as casual wear

cushioned sole

high impact protection

lightweight (~200 - 300 grams/shoe)

Weightlifting shoes


Best for: Olympic weightlifting

very durable

non-compressible platform

elevated heel (15 - 25 mm)

heavy (~400 - 500 grams/shoe)

Cross-training/CrossFit shoes


Best for: intermediate to advanced gym sessions

flat and firm sole

more durable than workout shoes

better ground feel

low drop (0 - 4 mm)

protection for rope climbs

Workout shoes vs. running shoes 

Generally, you should NOT use a pair of running shoes for a gym session. But if your workout primarily consists of running on a treadmill and doing some light bodyweight exercises, then it’s okay to use runners.

Here are a few reasons why dedicated trainers are a better option for gym use:

Workout shoes


Running shoes


support multi-directional movements

only support linear forward motion

firmer midsole provides a stable base for side-to-side movements and weight training

cushioned sole compresses easily under heavy loads which results in wobbling

thinner sole and lower heel-to-toe drop helps to feel the floor better and allow for better control of foot movement

thicker cushioned midsole and higher drop can get in the way of foot sensitivity

generally have a wider platform, especially in the heel and forefoot, to keep the wearer sure-footed

foot has a higher chance of rolling over the edge of the platform if moves laterally

due to their versatile design, they can be used for more activities, including short runs & sprints, casual walking, dancing, work (spending work time on your feet)

mostly appropriate only for running, walking, and athleisure

FAQ about workout shoes 

Are shoes necessary for working out? 

Depends on the type of the workout. Some people enjoy exercising barefoot or in socks. It certainly helps with building foot and toe strength and with proprioception. However, depending on the type of exercise, people look for certain stability and support features.

And sometimes it’s dangerous to workout barefoot - the risk of injury is high when it’s crowded (someone can step on your feet), people drop the weights when lifting, etc.

If you’re looking for a barefoot experience, you can try shoes that offer barefoot features - minimal or zero heel drop, minimal cushioning (flat soles), minimal support and stability features. Protection-wise, they might come in handy, especially for planks, rope jumps, rope climbs. 

Why do people workout in All-Stars? 

It’s usually the weightlifters that do so. They look for a flat surface (zero heel drop) and full contact with it for better weight distribution throughout the feet and no fancy cushioning: rubber offers stability, unlike wiggly foams. However, when you look at them competing, most will ditch the Chucks and get in the lifting shoes

Are Vans/Converse/(any_brand) shoes good gym shoes? 

The shoe is good for your chosen exercise if it’s comfortable and if it has a set of features needed for you to optimally train. This means shoes should help you perform certain activities more accurately/freely/stable/safely and lessen injury risk. “What to look for in workout shoes” section will help you get started. If you want to start shopping, our selection of gym shoes is the way to go.

How we test workout shoes

We are very particular about the things we require in workout shoes. For cardio or running, we say yes to exquisite cushioning. For strength training, a stability shoe gets our motor running. We seek a number of things depending on the category. Because of this, we make sure that we are really on top of our game when it comes to sharing our reviews so:

  • We purchase all the workout shoes that we put through testing to ensure that we spit facts, and facts only.
  • We put them on and use them in our workouts, not just in the gym, but also in our houses and outdoors. We walk, run, hop, lift, squat, etc. in the shoes.
  • Also, we conduct thorough lab tests, dissect the shoes, collect data, and interpret the results.
Nicholas Rizzo
Nicholas Rizzo

Nick combines 10+ years of experience in the health and fitness industry and a background in the sciences in his role as the Fitness Research Director. During his competitive powerlifting years his PRs have him sitting in the top 2% of bench presses (395 lbs), top 3% of squats (485 lbs) and top 6% of deadlifts (515 lbs) for his weight and age. His work has been featured on Bodybuilding.com, LiveStrong, Healthline, WebMD, WashingtonPost, and many more. Along the way, collaborating with industry leaders like Michael Yessis, Mark Rippetoe, Carlo Buzzichelli, Dave Tate, Ray Williams, and Joel Seedman.